I really, really wanted to find that diamond in the rough that would make me look like a genius in a few weeks.

Instead, after careful consideration, I went with two No. 1 seeds and two No. 2s.

In a year that has showcased heightened parity — the 23 combined losses by the four No. 1 seeds is the most since a total of 20 in 2000 — I'm still of the belief the 2016 Final Four ultimately will come from a pool of eight or so teams. Here's how I think each region will shake out.

South: Kansas. The Jayhawks were battle-tested in the rugged Big 12 Conference and boast strong senior leadership. I've got Kansas defeating No. 3 seed Miami in the regional final after the Hurricanes top Villanova in the Sweet 16.

West: Oklahoma. I'm a big believer in Buddy Hield, and I believe his star power will make the difference in a thrilling regional final win against top-seeded Oregon.

East: North Carolina. It will go down the wire in the Sweet 16 against Kentucky and again in the regional final against West Virginia, but look for the Tar Heels to prevail.

Midwest: Michigan State. Many thought the Spartans should have received the No. 1 seed, but the Spartans may have been given a favor at No. 2 with a much easier route through the bottom half of the Midwest bracket. Michigan State may not be tested until a regional final date against top-seeded Virginia. I've liked the Cavaliers all year, but coach Tom Izzo's teams always find a way to get it done on the national stage.


Most likely No. 1 to lose before regional final: North Carolina, only because of the Kentucky Wildcats. If Kentucky is hot the Tar Heels will have their hands full in the Sweet 16. I still like UNC to prevail, but an under-the-radar Wildcats squad is a dangerous proposition.

Dark horse Final Four pick: By "darkhorse" I'm staying away from any team with a top-three seed. The nod goes to Texas. The sixth seed in the West Region, the Longhorns have notched wins against North Carolina, Iowa State, West Virginia, Baylor, and Oklahoma. An early loss in the Big 12 tournament could be a blessing in disguise with the added rest following the rugged league slate. And Texas won't be intimidated in a likely second-round match against Texas A&M or a possible Sweet 16 showdown against the Sooners.

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07